Cipla, Serum partner to provide vaccines in S. Africa

Serum CEO Adar Poonawalla

Building on an existing relationship, Indian generics giant Cipla and vaccines outfit Serum Institute of India on Thursday announced a collaboration to bring Serum's vaccines to South Africa.

The deal will enable Cipla's South African subsidiary, Cipla Medpro, to "become a significant player in the market," its CEO, Paul Miller, said in a statement, as it will become the holder of all Medical Control Council regulatory approvals for Serum's vaccines there and will retain exclusivity and first right of refusal of its partner company's pipeline within South Africa.

Of Serum's vaccine offerings--which include vaccines for polio, diphtheria, tetanus, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella--South Africa will be participating in a "majority of these portfolios," the statement said.

"With a presence in 140 countries and 1.3 billion doses manufactured and sold, SII is an ideal ally for Cipla Medpro and this partnership will be instrumental in addressing the national vaccine shortage," Miller added.

Each with their respective expertise, Cipla and Serum have had a history featuring multiple partnerships and discussions to possibly merge.

Last November, Cipla paired with Serum to break into the vaccines space in Europe, a partnership CEO Adar Poonawalla at the time called the "perfect platform" to bring low-cost vaccines to the continent. Then, a few months later in February of this year, reports surfaced that the two were in early merger talks, though that deal never came together.

However, this past May, the two worked a deal to market Serum's flu vaccine Nasovac-S in India, a "significant step towards making preventive healthcare accessible to a large number of Indians through Cipla's strong countrywide sales force," Cipla CEO Subhanu Saxena said at the time.

Last month, Serum halted a planned stake sale amid fears of a global slowdown. The company, fully owned by the Poonawalla family, previously planned to divest a 10% stake of a desired $12 billion valuation.

- here's the release (PDF)